Protecting our natural world

Published 12:28 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2023

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After attending the Gardening for Life Project on March 4, where Doug Tallamy drew a capacity crowd to the High School auditorium, I have gained a new understanding of my place in the natural world. How I live and what I do matters. We depend on plants for our food source and 80 % of plants rely on animal pollinators. Quality of life for humanity is directly related to quality of life for all creatures and requires our active participation. 

My immediate concern is our native flora and fauna right here in Polk County. Our Vision Statement (March 2010) promises the protection of the natural beauty we so cherish. The Polk County Appearance Commission is charged with promoting tasteful landscaping. It is a herculean task in areas that are overrun with Kudzu, English Ivy, Privet, Tree of Heaven and other invasive species. Bradford Pear has now been recognized as an especially noxious and invasive plant. Instead of striving for “tasteful” landscaping, we need to promote landscapes that are supportive of the needs of pollinators. This is where private citizens in their own backyards and town and county governments in public spaces can step in.

A high-profile project for the county would be to remove all Bradford Pear from the campus of the public library where a pollinator garden has already been established. Private citizens can reduce their lawn and replace non-native species with native pollinator plants. 

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Yes, we do need caterpillars. By now most children in Polk County schools know that Monarch butterflies need milkweed to survive. I have learned that the Zebra butterfly zipping around my yard depends on the Paw Paw growing along the creek to reproduce. One brood of Chickadees needs 6 to 9 thousand caterpillars to grow into adulthood. By destroying habitat through development and/or planting non-natives we disrupt interrelationships that most of the time we are not even aware of. Planting an acorn and watching it grow into a stately oak tree is an act of hope, a gift to future generations.

The Congregational Church in Tryon is the recipient of two beautification grants from the Appearance Commission. We have attacked Kudzu and English Ivy in our wood lot and have already discovered several native species that had been overwhelmed or strangled by Ivy and Kudzu. 

What our efforts show is that determination and passion for the natural world can go a long way. Let’s celebrate Earth Day on April 22 with positive action, plant an acorn where a Bradford Pear once stood. 

For further enlightenment, watch Doug Tallamy’s presentation on the website of Gardening For Life or Conserving Carolina’s YouTube channel.

Christel Walter 

Mill Spring